With advance orders surpassing 90,000 copies, "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" #1 is poised to be one of the top selling comics of November, not to mention one of the surprise hits of 2012.
Released today by IDW Publishing, "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" #1 is written by Katie Cook, a cartoonist with a long history drawing licensed properties including "Star Wars," "Lord of the Rings" and "Fraggle Rock," and illustrated by Andy Price.
Inspired by the animated TV series of the same name, the Hasbro Studios franchise has never been stronger, dating back to its introduction as a toy line in the early 1980s.
With new episodes currently running on Hasbro's cable network The Hub in the United States and Treehouse TV in Canada, "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" is midway through its third season. Thanks to a growing number of Bronies -- a term referring to predominantly older male enthusiasts -- IDW believed the audience had expanded beyond the property's traditional fanbase of pre-teen girls. And it looks like IDW presumed right.
Before discussing the series' first issue with Cook, CBR Staff Writer Jeffrey Renaud and his six-year old daughter Anika read an advance copy of "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" #1, which features the first installment of an epic four-part adventure featuring the Mane Six: Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie and Applejack.
Anika, a grade one student at Pierre Elliott Trudeau French Immersion Public School in St. Thomas, Ontario, had just learned about character, plot, setting and tone in school, so she was well equipped to feed her father some questions as the two connected with the series' writer.
CBR News: My daughter Anika loves Rarity and Twilight Sparkle. She wants to know which pony is your favorite and why?
Katie Cook: My personal favorite is Twilight Sparkle. Rarity is my second favorite, so your daughter has very good taste. I was a good student and right now I love to make like lists. I get freaked out when I don't meet what is on those lists, so Twilight Sparkle is very relatable to me.
She's also a big fan of Princess Celestia, who wasn't featured in the first issue. Anika wants to know if and when we might see her in the series?
You're definitely going to see her in "My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic" #4, the fourth issue of this story arc. And then, in future stories that I'm working on, you will see her a lot more. I would really love to explore Princess Luna, her sister, more too -- you would definitely see Celestia in that.
Anika was happy to see all of her favorites, but she was wondering if you were creating any new ponies for the comic book series that are different than those in the animated TV series?
I think for this series you are going to see monsters and villains that are different from the animated series. In this first four-issue story arc, I tried to establish the characters. This is really my first time writing them, so I wanted to make sure that I have their voices clear in my writing style and in my head before I expand to different ponies.
I really think that's important for me as a creator and for the "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" license for comics to have that first story feature the Mane Six. If we started right out of the gate with a new pony story, featuring new ponies, we would have lost that fanbase and that readership right off the bat.
The setting of this story is Ponyville and the Mane Six is now heading to Changeling Kingdom, but Anika is wondering if we'll soon see Canterlot, Cloudsdale and other magical places?
Actually, I created several new places for the ponies to visit. In issue #2, they are basically traveling through the wilderness, so I created a more expansive Everfree Forest, which is the very scary forest near Ponyville. I expanded past that so the ponies really get to explore what's beyond Ponyville and beyond where the ponies live. The Changeling Queen is the main villain and I explore the path to where she lives. It was really cool to create where the Changeling Queen is from and things like that.
You've mentioned that this first story is a four-issue arc. Will all the stories run through multiple issues?
We're definitely going to do some smaller stories, too. IDW has already announced that they are going to do some single-issues featuring the ponies in solo stories. Rainbow Dash will get her own issue. Twilight Sparkle will get her own issue. I will be doing one of those, as well. I can't say which one I'll have, but I will be writing one of the one-shots.
For me, I really like that four-issue story arc because it makes it feel like a two-part episode. One of the challenges of writing multi-issue stories is that every issue has to have a beginning, middle and end. It needs to have your exposition, leading up to the climax and then your resolution -- and they need to fit into each other to make everything work as a whole. That's fun and a challenge for me to make sure that everything fits.
Anika learned that an important part of storytelling is how the stories make you feel. She thought this story was pretty scary, with the changelings and Queen Chrysalis, and she wants to know if all the stories will be this scary or will some of the pony adventures be more fun and happy?
I think for this one, yes, there is a villain. But I really try to fit fun, happy moments in, too. I know it got a little bit dark, but that's because this four-issue story arc is an epic pony adventure [Anika cheers] with some darker moments. I never get darker than they do on the show, because I don't think "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" can get too dark. It takes away from what the show is. I'm not going to kill off any characters. [Laughs]
I'm not writing this as a kids' book. I'm approaching this as an all-ages property because I think that's how they handle the show. It's something kids and adults can enjoy together. That's a challenge I'm trying to push in the comic, because I don't want it to be perceived as "Strawberry Shortcake" or "Sesame Street" or something that you walk into the comic book store and say, "I have to buy something for my little girl."
I want parents to be able to read this with their kid and not roll their eyes. I want to present a story worth reading, and unfortunately that means, occasionally, you have to have an antagonist or you have to have a villain. It doesn't need to be a big, scary one like Queen Chrysalis; it can be like Trixie on the show, who is a funny, ha-ha, kind of dork.
For what I'm doing with the first story arc, which again, like I said, is an epic, pony adventure, it needs villains. It needs monsters. It needs things for the Mane Six to fight so that they can prove what amazing ponies they are.
Andy Price is drawing the interiors for the main story you're writing, but the first issue also includes a two-page co-feature written and drawn by you. Anika would like to know if you prefer writing the ponies or drawing them?
I am an artist and I've always bee the artist. It's really weird for me to just be the writer, but I can't say that I'm not having fun because I get to make scenes up for Andy to draw that I would never want to draw myself because they are too complicated. [Laughs] I really like passing the torch on to someone I have known for as long as Andy. He's a really great friend of mine, and now I get to work on a project with my friend. He's someone I don't mind calling at 3 AM because I have an idea. I don't mind waking him up, because he knows how much this project means to both of us. If I have to pass the art duties off to somebody, I don't mind passing off to Andy because he's so talented and such a great friend.
This one is from me. First, I want to thank-you for giving me a comic book that I can sit down and enjoy with my daughter. Is there added pressure when you know a legion of fathers and mothers is anxiously waiting "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" #1 because they want to enjoy it with their daughter, share a joy of reading with them and inspire their daughters to read more?
It is something I think about because I've been a comic book fan since I was a kid. I got into comics with Archie and my mom reading them with me. My mom pulled out all these old Archie comics of hers and kind of continued on the tradition. I want to be able to do that same thing with my daughter. I have a two-year old, and if there is not material out there for us, as comic book nerds, to buy and read with our kids, they're not going to grow up and become comic book fans. I'm not sure I want to live in a world, 25 years from now, when my daughter is closing in on 30 and people don't read comics because they didn't love them as kids so they aren't going to love them as adults. Plus, it's going to put me out of a job and I'm going to be really upset. [Laughs]
As with the animated television series, I love the pop culture references that you slipped in the first issue, which Anika, I am sure, missed. Why is it important to speak to the adults and parents on this meta-level?
It's fun to include my own in-jokes in every issue because I have lots of stupid, pop culture things that I love. This first issue has a "Roadhouse" reference in it. Rainbow Dash tells Fluttershy to be "nice until it's time not to be nice!" That is all Patrick Swayze. That is "Roadhouse." Kids aren't going to pick up on that, but it's a nice thing my husband chuckled over when he read it.
But every reference isn't going to be picked up on. I think there is a "Sam & Max" reference in issue #2. I grew up being a fan of Steve Purcell's "Sam & Max." It was one of the comic books that showed me that comic books didn't have to look like Spider-Man. Of course I'm going to try and do a little homage to that, but I also like to fit in some movie references too. Issue #4 is full of them.
It's a treat for the adults, but I don't try and do it blatantly. I try to make it fit with the story. It's a fun challenge, because I don't want people to think that I just go panel by panel dropping in movie/TV show/comic book quotes. But every once in a while, I slip them in.
My eight, soon-to-be-nine-year-old son was sitting in the room while we were reading this tonight. He was pretending not to be listening but I think he was. Do you think this series can be enjoyed by young boys?
Like I said, this is for all ages, and I want boys to read this. Not just the adult Bronies -- I want a nine-year-old boy to read it too. Not because he's being forced to and because his sister owns it but because he wants to and it's a fun story. The characters are fun and I think any young boy that reads it and can get past the fact that it's about "My Little Pony" is going to find that the characters are really fun and silly and, a lot of the time, very relatable. If they can stick with it, they're going to get some monsters, too. Right away. In issue #2.
Comic books are funny books, so I'm really trying to pull in what I loved about reading comics as a kid. I'm not going to be the next big Marvel writer. I'm not going to write an epic Batman adventure. I'm trying to write funny stuff with ponies and things I think kids will like. I'm a kids' artist first and foremost.
Yes, I've done some stuff that is not child appropriate but I am striving to put a book in kids' hands that I don't mind giving to my kid.
"My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" #1, by Katie Cook and Andy Price, is on sale now.